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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 4

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Ezra Chapter 4

Ezra 4:1 "Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;"

The enemy of God’s people would try to stop the building of the temple. Noah had the same problem from the world around him, when he was building the ark. Any person, or group of people, who decide to do something for God will face opposition from the devil. In this particular instance, the devil was using the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.

Ezra 4:2 "Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye [do]; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither."

This has been another weapon the enemy used from the beginning. The serpent was in the garden with Adam and Eve. The enemy will infiltrate the church any chance he can get. This was no different. He tried to join in the building to sabatoge the work.

Ezra 4:3 "But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us."

The Bible is very plain in warning believers not to be un-equally yoked with unbelievers. It was good that Zerubbabel and Jeshua saw through their offer to help, and refused to let them help. Cyrus had not insisted on them helping, and they knew better than to include those of the world in building the temple to the LORD.

Ezra 4:4 "Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,"

The people of the land, here, are speaking of Samaritans. They were a constant hindrance to the building of the temple by Judah and Benjamin.

Ezra 4:5 "And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia."

These counsellors were bought to side in against Judah and Benjamin. In our day, this hindrance would be things like not being able to get building permits, or something of that order. They were trying to make it as difficult as possible to keep the temple from being built. The temple would bring a unity of the people. This is one of the things their adversaries did not want to happen.

Ezra 4:6 "And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they [unto him] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem."

Many believe this Ahasuerus to be the same as Xerxes mentioned in the book of Esther. They were trying to turn him against the people that had been allowed to return to Judah.

Ezra 4:7 "And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter [was] written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue."

This is speaking of them having an interpreter write this letter in the Syrian language to prove to the Syrians they were part of them. Part of the reason the building had slowed down, was because of the change of kings. The people of Judah would not know whether the new king still would help with the building of the temple, or not. He would not remain king very long.

Ezra 4:8 "Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:"

Rehum and Shimshai were not Hebrews. They were not for the building of the temple. This Artaxerxes was easily swayed against Jerusalem.

Ezra 4:9 "Then [wrote] Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, [and] the Elamites,"

Ezra 4:10 "And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest [that are] on this side the river, and at such a time."

There is not much known about Asnapper. These are speaking of people, who were not of Judah and Benjamin. They would like very much to run them off, if they could and take this area for themselves. They were afraid of the temple being built, because it would give a permanence to the re-taking of the land by Judah.

Ezra 4:11 "This [is] the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, [even] unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time."

These letters were for no other purpose but to stir up trouble between Artaxerxes and Judah.

Ezra 4:12 "Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls [thereof], and joined the foundations."

It was not actually this king who had sent them. Cyrus was the king of Persia at the time they were sent to Jerusalem. The Jews had rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, and that is what they were reminding this evil king of here. They were not rebelling now, but doing what Cyrus sent them to Jerusalem to do.

Ezra 4:13 "Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up [again, then] will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and [so] thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings."

They were trying to get this new king to stop Jerusalem from building a wall of protection around it. The easiest way to get the attention of this new king was to appeal to the loss of money from taxation of this province. Of course, there had been no rebellion, but they were not bothered with facts. They were trying to help themselves and not the king of Persia.

Ezra 4:14 "Now because we have maintenance from [the king’s] palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;"

They are pretending to look after the interest of the king of Persia. They eat salt that he had provided, is perhaps what is meant by maintenance. They are pretending to be protecting the king’s interest.

Ezra 4:15 "That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city [is] a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed."

Nebuchadnezzar had come against Jerusalem, because the LORD had turned him against His people. Their being unfaithful to God was what caused their destruction. The records would, possibly, show a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, however.

Ezra 4:16 "We certify the king that, if this city be builded [again], and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river."

These evil men were trying to convince the king that he would lose all control over Judah, if he allowed them to continue this building program. These evil men were not really trying to help anyone, but themselves. They believed, if the king destroyed Judah, they would be able to receive this land.

Ezra 4:17 "[Then] sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and [to] Shimshai the scribe, and [to] the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and [unto] the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time."

Ezra 4:18 "The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me."

Ezra 4:19 "And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and [that] rebellion and sedition have been made therein."

This evil king had received their letters, and believed what they had said. He looked in the records, and saw where Jerusalem had rebelled against them. He had believed a lie.

Ezra 4:20 "There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all [countries] beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them."

The mighty kings, spoken of here, could be David, Solomon, or Josiah. This was a true statement, that they did collect tribute. The remnant of the people in Jerusalem now, was not large enough to be a threat to anyone, however.

Ezra 4:21 "Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until [another] commandment shall be given from me."

He, now, gave orders that the building was to cease.

Ezra 4:22 "Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?"

They were to act immediately upon this, so the king would suffer no loss.

Ezra 4:23 “Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter [was] read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.”

It appears, that these two men were the representatives of the king in this land. Even though the Jews had been freed and returned home, they were still under the rule of Persia. These men were speaking for the king of Persia, and forced the building to stop.

Ezra 4:24 "Then ceased the work of the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius King of Persia."

Artaxarxes reigned for less than a year. He was replaced by king Darius. Darius would allow the work to continue on as originally planned. This speaks of a period of less than 2 years interval, before the work on the temple would be legal to start again.

Ezra 4 Questions

1. The enemy of God’s people will try to stop the __________ of the _________.

2. Who did Noah have difficulty with, when he was building the ark?

3. Any person, who decides to do something for the LORD, will have trouble from the ______.

4. In this particular situation, the devil was using the adversaries of _________ and ________.

5. What did these adversaries ask Jerubbabel?

6. Why did they want to join the building force?

7. Who answered their request?

8. What was the answer?

9. Who had commanded the building of the temple?

10. The Bible is very plain about believers not being _________ yoked with those of unbelief.

11. Who weakened the hands of the people of Judah?

12. Who are the people of the land in Ezra 4:4?

13. Why were the counsellors hired?

14. Why did they not want the temple built?

15. In the reign of ___________, they wrote accusations against Judah.

16. Who wrote the letter to Artaxerxes?

17. Who were the chancellor and the scribe that wrote a letter?

18. Why were all of these people so opposed to Judah and Benjamin?

19. What was the purpose of the letters?

20. Who had the Jews rebelled against in the past?

21. What reason do they give this evil king for stopping them from building?

22. How did the king answer Rehum and Shimshai?

23. Who were the mighty kings mentioned in Ezra 4:20?

24. What did the king tell them to do?

25. How long did the work on the house of God cease?

Verses 1-5

Ezr 4:1-5

Ezra 4:1-5

NEARLY A CENTURY OF OPPOSITION TO ISRAEL;

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS FROM 535 TO 520 B.C.

"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity were building a temple unto Jehovah, the God of Israel; then they drew near to Zerubbabel, and to the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said unto them, Let us build with you; for we seek your God, as ye do; and we sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us hither. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us building a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia."

This is an extremely abbreviated report, as a glance at the chronology of the rulers of Persia, given in the preceding chapter will show. A full twenty-five years of opposition is recorded in these five verses. These years included the remaining years of Cyrus’ dominion, the twelve year reign of Cambyses, and into the second year of Darius I (Hystaspes).

Evidently, the great prophet Daniel was deceased early in this period, because it is evident that no powerful voice was available to defend the interests of Israel until the times of Darius I.

"Let us build with you, for we seek your God, as ye do" (Ezra 4:2). The people who thus approached the Jews were the remnants of the Northern Israel which remained after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.; and when wild animals became a threatening problem after many of the people were carried away by Assyria, the Assyrian kings repeopled the land with non-Israelites. It is true that they worshipped Jehovah, after a fashion; but their worship was corrupted by idolatry. Zerubbabel and all Israel were very wise to reject this offer of the Samaritans. The proof that they really had no love at all for Israel appears in their continued opposition.

"Since the days of Esarhaddon" (Ezra 4:2). "Isaiah had prophesied in 734 B.C. that Northern Israel would cease to be a distinct people within sixty-five years (Isaiah 7:8); and this was fulfilled by 669 B.C., during the reign of Esarhaddon (680-668 B.C.)."

The following verses (Ezra 4:6-23) are, in fact, an unusually long parenthesis which describes the continual opposition of the people of the land to the development of Jerusalem until the times of Artaxerxes.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 4:1. The people designated as the adversaries were the classes who had been brought in to occupy the country after the Assyrians took the 10 tribes away into captivity. For information on this subject see 2 Kings 17. Doubtless they had grown to be a numerous band in the two centuries that had gone by since then. In that time the captivity of the kingdom of Judah also had taken place, and these folk probably thought that they would have continuous and undisturbed possession of the whole land.

Ezra 4:2. Envy was certainly the motive for the proposition these adversaries made. If any glory should come from this building project, they wanted a share in it. There was some truth in their claim about sacrificing to the same God that the men of Judah worshiped. On this point let the reader again read, carefully, the account that is given in the 17th chapter of 2 Kings. It will be seen just to what extent these people sacrificed to the Lord.

Ezra 4:3. Zerubbabel was the leader or superintendent of the construction work of the temple. The other men referred to were under him and had some prominent part in the work. The motive that prompted these adversaries to make the proposition they did would have made it wrong to let them into the work. But a still greater reason existed for refusing them. They were adversaries according to the inspired writer, and it would have been unsafe to permit them to have such an important connection with the sacred building. Another thing, Cyrus did not authorize any but the Jews to do this reconstruction, and that would have made them intruders to employ them as they suggested. Zerubbabel and his co-workers were true both to God and to Cyrus. They informed these people that it was the house of our God, which would make it inappropriate for the Lord’s adversaries to take part in it. They also stated that their operations were according to the commandment of the king of Persia, and thus the whole project was not only a work of God, but was in harmony with the highest temporal authority over them.

Ezra 4:4. This short verse is a general statement of the activities of the local citizens who were the adversaries of God’s people. It merely says they weakened their hands, which means they "slackened" their hands in the work. It does not state how it was done, and that will be learned in the following verses. But before going on with the reading, make another notation in the first column of the chart as follows: "The work was hindered all the rest of the reign."

Ezra 4:5. Hired counsellors would be about what we would mean were we to "employ an attorney." They wanted these counsellors to help devise some way of hindering the work of the temple. Frustrate means to "break up." One translation of the word in the A. V. is, "cause to cease". This verse makes a general statement of the length of time the hindrance lasted, but some following verses will give more details of the wicked actions.

Verses 6-23

Ezr 4:6-23

Ezra 4:6-23

SAMARITAN OPPOSITION CONTINUED UNTIL 446 B.C.

"And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of his companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letters was written in the Syrian character, and set forth in the Syrian tongue. Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort: then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Shushanchites, the Dehaites, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar brought over, and set in the city of Samaria, and in the rest of the country beyond the River, and so forth.

"This is the copy of the the letter they sent to Artaxerxes the king: Thy servants, the men beyond the River, and so forth. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews that came up from thee are come to us unto Jerusalem; they are building the rebellious and the bad city, and have finished the walls, and repaired the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and in the end it will be hurtful unto the kings. Now because we eat the salt of the palace, and it is not meet for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore have we sent and certified the king: that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time; for which cause was this city laid waste. We certify the king that, if this city be builded, and the walls finished, thou shalt have no portion beyond the River.

"Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and in the rest of the country beyond the River: Peace, and so forth. The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I decreed, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jeruslaem, who have ruled over all the country beyond the River; and tribute, custom, and toll was paid unto them. Make ye now a decree to cause these men to cease, and that the city be not builded, until a decree shall be made by me. And take heed that ye be not slack herein: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?

"Then when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews and made them to cease by force and power."

Here is the end of the long parenthesis. Note that this letter to Artaxerxes was followed promptly by his decree to shut down the building of Jerusalem (not the house of God; that had been finished long ago). "We must date this decree in 446 B.C.; and it was the news of this disaster which so shocked Nehemiah and forced him into mourning and prayers (Nehemiah 1:3-4)." From this it is clear that the Samaritan opposition lasted from 535 B.C. to 446 B.C., a period of at least 89 years.

"Cause these men to cease ... until a decree shall be made by me" (Ezra 4:21). This was a very important line in the letter, because, according to the foolish tradition of Persian kings, "Their laws of the Medes and the Persians could not be altered." Artaxerxes, here, very wisely left the door open either for himself or a successor to change his mind and let the building of Jerusalem continue.

Having disposed of this long parenthesis in which he spelled out the Samaritan opposition, the author of Ezra at once resumed the narrative regarding the building of the temple, which had been delayed because of the Samaritan opposition, and as we learn from the Minor Prophets, because of the indifference of God’s people themselves. Thus, between Ezra 4:23 and Ezra 4:24 there is a retrogression in time from 446 B.C. to 520 B.C., which was the second year of Darius I. Thus, he leaps backwards in the narrative some 74 years!

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 4:6. This Ahasuerus is at the head of the 2nd column of your chart. In this reign these adversaries continued their opposition to the work of erecting the temple. No further detail is given of what they did except to write a letter to the Persian king in power at that time, whose name was referred to above. The notation to be made in this column is, "Work on the temple is still hindered."

Ezra 4:7. Artaxerxes is at the head of the 3rd column of your chart. His reign was short, but much was done in that 1 year. The letter written by the counsellors to the preceding Persian ruler had its desired effect by causing the work to be hindered. Those who did the writing in the preceding reign were the hired counsellors and referred to by the pronoun "they." Whether the persons named in this and some following verses were the same men, we do not know. But we do know that they used their influence in behalf of the adversaries of the Jews. They wrote a letter to Artaxerxes the Persion king, who, we should bear in mind, was then in Babylon. The letter was written in the Syrian tongue, which was another form of Aramean. These two words are used somewhat interchangeably in the Bible, and yet there is a distinction that should be recognized at times, or confusion will result. I will quote from history a few paragraphs for the information of the reader, and he is requested to refer to this verse and its comments when there is occasion for the information. "Aramaic languages are so called from Aram, a geographical term which in old Semitic usage designates nearly the same districts as the Greek word, Syria. Aram, however, does not include Palestine while it comprehends Mesopotamia. (Heb. Aram of two rivers), a region which the Greeks frequently distinguish from Syria proper. Thus the Aramic languages may be geographically defined as the Semitic dialects originally current in Mesopotamia and the regions extending S. W. from the Euphrates to Palestine." Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 307. "Etymologically, ’Syria’ is merely an abbreviation of ’Assyria,’ a name which covered the subject lands of the Assyrian empire, the subject-people being also called ’Syrians.’ Afterwards, in the Graeco-Roman period, the shorter word came to be restricted to the territory west of the Euphrates, the designation ’Syrians,’ however, being given to the great mass of the Semitic population dwelling between the Tigris and the Mediterranean, who are more accurately called Arameans." Britannica, 22-821. "Aram, which occurs in Scripture with the same frequency as Asshur, is, like Asshur, a name concerning the application of which there is no doubt. Our translators almost always render the word, as did the Septuagint interpreters, by ’Syria’ and the term though etymologically quite distinct, is beyond a doubt, in its use by the Hebrews, a near equivalent for the ’Syria’ of the Greeks and Romans. It designates a people distinct from, yet closely allied with, the Assyrians, which, in the re motest times whereto history reaches, was established in the valley of the middle Euphrates, and in the tract between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean. This people, known to itself as Aramean, continued the predominant race in the country to the time of the Mohammedan conquest." Rawlinson, Origin of Nations, p. 234. "Between the outer limits of the Syro-Arabian desert and the foot of the great mountain range of Kurdistan and Luristan intervenes a territory long famous in the world’s history, and the chief site of three out of five empires of whose history, geography, and antiquities it is proposed to treat in the present volumes. Known to the Jews as Aram-Naharaim, or ’Syria of the two rivers’; to the Greeks and Romans as Mesopotamia, or ’the betweenriver country.’ " Rawlinson, Five Great Monarchies, Vol. 1, P. 2. See also, in same volume, pp. 43, 179, 236, 262. These men were subjects of the Persian power, but were of Syrian origin, hence they wrote their letter in that tongue . But since their king was a Persian, they realized they would have to send along also a Persian translation of the letter. That is what is meant by the words interpreted in the Syrian tongue.

Ezra 4:8-9. I do not know just how many different persons had a direct part in writing the letter, but evidently all of these who are named had something to do in forming the epistle A chancellor was an important official in the employ of a king. A scribe corresponded to our secretary. The difficult names in verse 9 are some of the groups that had been brought into that country after the 10 tribes were taken into captivity. The account of this transferring of the foreign clans is recorded in 2 Kings 17.

Ezra 4:10. In the account given by the writer of 2 Kings, Esarhaddon, an important king of the Assyrians, is said to have brought these people over to Samaria, while here it says Asnapper was the man who did it. But there is no difficulty on that subject. A king or other leading man is said to have done a deed, when he has it done by one of his officers. Smith’s Bible Dictionary has this to say on this matter: "Asnapper (swift), mentioned in Ezra 4:10 as the person who settled the Cuthaeans in the cities of Samaria. He was probably a general of Esarhaddon." After giving all those names, representing the various groups of persons cooperating in sending this letter, the writer sums up by the words and at such times, which corresponds to our "etc."

Ezra 4:11. This verse is the introduction to the letter, with a general salutation that includes without naming, the various groups of people joining in the epistle that is addressed to the king of Persia. Their introduction concludes with the same words that mean "etc."

Ezra 4:12. Jerusalem had rebelled against the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:1), and had paid the penalty for it by being destroyed and its people taken into captivity. But that was over 80 years prior to this date. In that time the captivity had been ended and the captives had been given authority to do the very thing they were doing at the time this letter was planned. We should not become confused over mention of the walls as being set up. We know that it was in Nehemiah’s time (75 years later) that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. The walls mentioned here refer to the walls forming the foundation of the temple. It is true the adversaries feared that the entire city with its walls would be restored. But their immediate concern was for the walls of the foundation of the house. The language in Ezra 5:3; Ezra 5:9; Ezra 5:16 and Ezra 6:14 shows they used the word wall in connection with the house of the Lord.

Ezra 4:13. These adversaries complained that if the work of the Jews was allowed to go on to completion, then the city would become independent and break off all diplomatic relations with the king. It is remarkable how forgetful an envious mind can be. At the start of this work, these very adversaries proposed helping with it. Now they claimed that such work was in rebellion against the king. Before, they pretended they wished to join in the work because it was on behalf of the God whom they all served. Next they opposed having the work done at all because of their loyalty to the king of Persia. When a man so glaringly contradicts himself, it is evident that he does not have an honest basis for his activities.

Ezra 4:14. If either of the two motives these men stated was the true one, it was the first. Their support might be cut off if the king should lose some of his revenue. Selfishness was the true sentiment that prompted their ac tivities, but they pretended to be concerned about the king’s honor.

Ezra 4:15. The paragraph contained in this verse states some truth and some error. What truth it has is used in a way to make a false impression. It was true that the nation of which Jerusalem was the capital had opposed other provinces, but it was because of their evil ways. It is also true that the city was destroyed when it rebelled against the Babylonians. But in referring to those facts, the writers connected events that were many years apart, and which occurred by far different causes. When the city was destroyed, it was done by the nation that God caused to come against it. And that was done in punishment for their taking up the corrupt practices of the very kind of people who were writing this letter to the Persian king. In asking the king to search the official records, they went far enough back to omit the later accounts, that showed the authority for the present work that the Jews were doing. That record, however, will be brought to light before the case is ended.

Ezra 4:16. The previous warning was repeated and summed up in the words have no portion this side of the river (of Euphrates). They meant that if the government in Jerusalem was allowed to be reestablished, it would again take possession of all the territory west of the noted river.

Ezra 4:17. The warning and suggestion of the letter had the effect intended by its authors. The king of Persia was intimidated into having the official records examined. All kings and other rulers keep an account of the transactions within their realms, and of other countries in any way connected with them. But king Artaxerxes did not cause a complete search to be made; he looked only for the item that was suggested to him by the letter. Having done so, he sent an answer, and this verse is the formal salutation to the persons whose letter is being answered, the ones named in Ezra 4:8-9. Peace, and at such a time is a friendly expression as a part of the salutation. Moffatt’s translation condenses the whole phrase into "Greetings, etc."

Ezra 4:18. Plainly read means the letter was interpreted to the king so that he could understand it in his (the Persian) language, it having been written in the Syrian tongue (Ezra 4:7). The whole performance as to the composition of this letter and the accompanying explanation, might well be described as the act of handing a student in a foreign language a sentence to translate, and with it handing him a vocabulary. The difference in this case is, the servants made the application of the vocabulary for the benefit of the king.

Verse 19. This verse repeats practically what the letter declared (in Ezra 4:15).

Ezra 4:20. This verse makes the report even stronger than did the letter. It admits that mighty kings had ruled in Jerusalem. A very important item in the Persian record is the declaration that the government at Jerusalem had ruled over all the countries beyond the (Euphrates) river. That was promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18), and actually realized by Solomon (1 Kings 4:21). So it is interesting to find the Persian records corroborating those in our Bible.

Ezra 4:21. The command directed to be given would be a royal decree and effective at once. However, an intimation was made that the king was taking the subject under advisement for further investigation. He left open the prospects of another order that might change the one just given. We shall find. that it did take place, but not in the reign of this king.

Ezra 4:22. The urge for strict obedience of the edict was based on the welfare of the kings, meaning the kings of the Persian Empire. The question of what was right or wrong was not considered; only the advantages of these heathen rulers were given consideration in transmitting the royal decree.

Ezra 4:23. Here is another place to make a marking on the chart. In the 3rd column write as follows: "Work on the temple is stopped by order of the king." The promptness of the men when they received the order is significant; they went up in haste. Another thing that should be noted is, they made the work to be stopped by force and power. The first word is from MBA and the definition of Strong is, "An orthographical variation for DEBA an arm, i. e. (figuratively) power." The second is from CHAYIL and Strong defines it, "An army, or strength." The thought is, they were compelled to stop by physical force that was backed by the military units of Persia. The Jews would not cease to work upon the mere order of these coun sellors. They had already had a test of that kind, when they had the proposal to help in the building project. (Vs. 2, 3.) There is no indication that the official letter was read or even shown to the Jews. They were told to cease a work that they knew had been ordered by a former king of Persia, hence were doing what they knew to be lawful. But when physical force was brought against them, the only thing that could be done was to stop.

Verse 24

Ezr 4:24

Ezra 4:24

"Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem; and it ceased until the second year of Darius I the king of Persia."

Chronologically, this verse comes exactly after Ezra 4:5, above, where it was stated that, "The people of the land hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose ... all the days of Cyrus king of Persia." In fact, this lobbying against the rebuilding of the temple went on throughout the remainder of the reign of Cyrus, through all the days of Cambyses, and until the second year of Darius I (520 B.C.).

A little later in Ezra (Ezra 6) we shall have a detailed report of how the opposition of the Samaritans was successfully checkmated and how Darius I ordered the temple to be rebuilt.

One of the significant revelations of the chapter is the racial makeup of what we have loosely called the "Samaritans." A remnant of those people was descended from the ten northern tribes of Israel; but as the letter to Artaxerxes shows, there were not less than nine different nationalities besides Israelites who constituted the population of Samaria.

"The great and noble Osnappar" (Ezra 4:10). This is the only mention in the Bible of this name. Rawlinson supposed that he was an officer of Esarhaddon; Oesterley identified him as, "Ashurbanipal (668-626 B.C.), the son and successor of Esarhaddon."

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 4:24. This verse gives the authority for the notation just made in the 3rd column of the chart. By comparing the dates at the head of the chart, it will be seen that the work lay idle for two years.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/ezra-4.html.
 
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